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Act One: Actions Speak Louder

Sarah Vowell tells the story of Page Smith and Eloise Pickard Smith. They were married for over five decades, and died a day apart.

Act Two: The Unknown Soldier

Forty-five people read Luc Sante's story The Unknown Soldier, in which we hear about people's final moments, final thoughts.

Act Five: Black Box

We go through transcripts from those black box flight recorders recovered from airplane crashes to see what people say. One pilot declares "I love you" to someone, another is doing his job like always and suddenly says, "uh-oh." It's an interview with Malcolm McPherson, author of The Black Box: All-New Cockpit Voice Recorder Accounts of In-Flight Accidents.

Act Six: What Goes Through Your Head

Writer Tobias Wolff reads his story "Bullet in the Brain" from his collection of stories The Night in Question, about a bank robbery and a man who's shot, and what he thinks about before he dies.


Host Ira Glass talks with a guy who hit the road after his mother's death, hoping for some experience that would change him and shed light on what just happened. This never happens to him, or to most of us.

Act Two: Gangster's Daughter

Susan Berman, author of the memoir Easy Street, the True Story of a Gangster's Daugher, reads from her book about her father Davie Berman, a Jewish gangster and one of the men — with Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel — who created modern Las Vegas. (7 minutes)Act Two continues after the break.

Act Three: Reverb

Ellery Eskelin never met his father but always heard he was a musical genius. Years after his father's death, Ellery started finding recordings of his musical output: he was the king of "song-poems." These are the songs that result when people answer those ads in the backs of magazines that say, "Send us your lyrics, and we'll write and record your song." Ellery's father's musical output was prodigious — and very odd.

Act Three: Fireman

Actor Michael Stumm reads from fireman and fiction writer Larry Brown's book On Fire.

Act Three

Claudia Perez talks about how her 21-year-old brother was shot and the family thought he'd die.